HUNTINGTON BEACH — Mayor Jim Silva said Wednesday that he is withdrawing his candidacy in the June Republican primary against incumbent U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach).
Silva said he made the decision to withdraw at the urging of Republican Party officials.
Silva thus became the second Orange County city official to withdraw from the GOP primary in as many days. On Tuesday, Mission Viejo Councilman Robert A. Curtis withdrew his candidacy against incumbent Assemblyman Mickey Conroy in south Orange County. Curtis had also cited party persuasion as a major reason he withdrew.
In an interview at City Hall on Wednesday, Silva said: "Yes, it is true that I'm withdrawing from the race. I spent the weekend at the Republican (state) convention in Burlingame, and several party officials talked to me. They explained the problem of fund raising and getting volunteers."
Silva said he had thus decided to throw his support to Rohrabacher.
State party officials, whom Silva did not name, told him that a contested primary drains funds and volunteer campaign workers that otherwise might be used in the November general election, he said. In the November election, Republican nominees face candidates from the Democratic and other political parties.
However, the newly drawn 45th Congressional District is predominantly Republican in voter registration, and the person who wins the June GOP nomination is overwhelmingly favored to win the November general election.
Until Silva made his surprising withdrawal on Wednesday, the focus of the race for the new 45th had been on him and two-term Rep. Rohrabacher. "With Jim (Silva) out of the race, it now becomes a coronation for Rohrabacher," said one political source close to Silva, who asked not to be identified.
Rohrabacher on Wednesday night praised Silva for his decision.
"Jim's a conservative who is thinking more about philosophical principles than trying to get a new job," Rohrabacher said in a telephone interview from Washington. Noting that he is also a conservative, Rohrabacher added: "We never had any major philosophical differences. Our basic philosophies are compatible. He just tested the water to see if it was possible to run, and that's to be expected."
Rohrabacher was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1988 from the old 42nd Congressional District. He was reelected in that district in 1990. The old district straddled the Orange-Los Angeles County line and took in part of Long Beach and Huntington Beach. Rohrabacher lived in Long Beach. But when the districts were redrawn this year, the largest chunk of Rohrabacher's old district was totally in Orange County. Rohrabacher thus moved to Huntington Beach earlier this year.
When Silva filed last month to run against Rohrabacher, he criticized the congressman for being a newcomer to the Huntington Beach area and for supporting offshore oil drilling, which Silva has strongly opposed.
In his brief comments yesterday, however, Silva said he now endorses Rohrabacher for reelection. Silva said that after he pays off his campaign debts from his brief congressional race, he plans to mail back the rest of the donations he received.
Silva, who is completing his first four-year term on the City Council here, also said he will be a candidate for reelection in the November city races.